That baby is ugly and you, sir, are a weasel

I used to work with a guy who would rarely bring his boss bad news or take a contrary point of view.   We’d sit in meetings and discuss the weakness of a particular idea or the wrong-headedness of a particular path we were on.  Then when it came time to agree on what we would cover with the CEO, this guy would share with us that he had already discussed the topic with our leader and that he had concluded that she was not open to changing her mind.

“But we have all this new data” someone would proffer.   “Doesn’t matter” he’d say.

“Surely if she knew about X, Y and Z she would see that what we are doing is not going to work,” another would chime in.   “You can do what you want” he would retort, “but I’m not about to argue with her.”

Is it hard to take a position contrary to what your boss believes?  Of course.

So what is it exactly that you get paid to do?  Why would you choose to invest so much time, energy and passion into something and then fail to offer an honest and direct assessment based upon your professional expertise?

I’ve had my share of opportunities to tell a boss or a client that their baby is ugly. And believe me, it hasn’t always gone well.  Nor have I always been proven right. And frankly there are times that I’ve paid a high price–by being marginalized, shunned or fired. But I would do it all over again.

It’s a choice.  Do you want to live a life of integrity, doing the best work you are capable of, striving to be a linchpin?  Or do you want to take the path well traveled, leaving a legacy of mediocrity, safe in your weasel-ness?

Enjoy the mice.


3 thoughts on “That baby is ugly and you, sir, are a weasel

  1. Hi Steve, this is my first time on your blog and I don’t know why I waited so long! Great info, insightful and informative and I look forward to coming back!


  2. Interesting post. After 10 years in the public sector, I’ve seen this in both individuals and committees. Organizational theorist Herbert Simon refers to your approach as “rational decision making,” which means accurate information leads to the best decision. Unfortunately, as you point out, this is not always the case; especially when it comes to power, emotion or values.
    Group decision making involves a balance between integrity and compromise (politics). I’ve found the most fruitful approach to the maddeningly bizarre obstinacy in face of facts is to lay everything on the table (I’ve done my job) and let someone else make it “their idea” (9 times out of 10, this turns out to be the obstinate one). Dale Carnegie describes how to do this without losing face in “How to Win Friends…”

    Sounds like the co-worker above well understands and employs this approach. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him go far. There’s a lot of ugly babies out there, but describing how ugly they are doesn’t lead to the desired outcome (fat consulting salary, raise, etc.).

    Enjoyed your site.

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